A billboard can be a striking media channel that has the power to dominate a large area of space. It can change the landscape of wherever it pops up, whether that’s on a roadside, in an Undergound station, or outside a supermarket. In recent years the industry has been revolutionised by two technologies: digital sites and Route. Digital sites allow for advertisers to incorporate motion and interactivity in their creatives, as well as serve their adverts to the billboards in real-time. Route is an industry-funded technology that aims to record how and when certain consumer groups move around and come into contact with Out of Home (OOH) campaigns. This means it’s easier for advertisers to choose where, when and how to advertise when issuing a run of posters.
However, new technologies are worthless unless advertisers utilise them to their full potential. They can turn good ideas into stunning executions, but a campaign will get lost in the crowd unless it innovates and attempts to stand out. Here are 4 ideas that utilise billboards excellently in their pursuit of turning heads:
British Airways: #LookUp
Last November British Airways unveiled a new digital OOH campaign that was triggered into action using flight data. When a plane flew overhead, the billboard updated with its flight number and origin and featured a child looking up and pointing at the plane as it soared through the air. The billboards then changed to display flight prices, flight times and temperatures of where the flight is going to or heading back from.
Aviation is a strange service that the user only really experiences when they’re in the air themselves, so this is a superb way personalising BA’s offering to those of us on the ground and forcing us to view flying from a different perspective (literally). I can’t be the only one that looks up to the sky and wonders what holidays the passengers of a passing plane are embarking on, and this campaign gave me all the answers.
Apotek: Hair in the Wind
Apotek is a Swedish pharmacy brand that was bringing a new haircare product to market earlier this year. It utilised the responsive nature of modern-day digital billboards (ultra-sonic sensors to be precise) to sense when a passing train swept past its advert in a subway station. The movement of the train triggered a change in the billboard’s imagery and gave the impression of a model’s hair being blown about in the resulting wind.
The campaign’s tagline was “Make your hair come alive”. It’s a brilliant way of integrating a billboard into the space around it and making passers-by take a second glance at what’s happening on the screen. Sometimes a subtle and simple idea can speak volumes when executed as well as this.
Apotek’s responsive billboard in action in a Swedish subway.
Go Compare: Graffiti and Brandalism
Back in 2012, Go Compare adverts featuring the much reviled singing character Gio Compario appeared on billboards across the UK. However, they appeared to be vandalised, with graffiti that read “Go jump off a cliff” and “Get some singing lessons”. This wasn’t a surprise when major news outlets reported on the vandals who were seemingly fed up with the annoying TV adverts, but the story took a twist – Go Compare had pre-printed the graffiti on the billboards themselves in what was called an act of “brandalism”.
It was a stunt that caused a stir in many media circles. Does it simply just look rubbish? Does it encourage the public to graffiti on other advertisers’ billboards? Does it portray the Go Compare brand in a bad light? At the very least, it showed the public that Go Compare is self-aware and conscious of the public’s dislike of the Gio character. Not everybody was in on the joke though, and to a normal member of the public that wasn’t privy to the back story of the campaign, it appeared as if people’s dislike of the brand had finally reached a tipping point.
Hell Pizza: Rabbit Skins
What do you do if you’re a pizza outlet and you’re launching a new pizza that uses rabbit meat as a topping? That’s right – you pin over 200 dead rabbit skins to a billboard in your native New Zealand and watch the public fury-o-meter rocket skywards. However, from a media viewpoint it shows that a billboard really can be a blank canvas for anything that an advertiser wants to stick to it. There isn’t a comparable media channel that would be able to achieve a similar kind of impact.
In a statement, Hell Pizza said that “For those who are concerned, we sourced these rabbit skins via a professional animal tanning company, who in turn sourced them from local meat processing companies where the skins are a regular by-product”. By that time though, fans of Hell Pizza were rallying in support for the brand whilst its detractors were trying to get the billboard removed. However, this was all secondary to the worldwide media coverage after buying space on just one roadside billboard in New Zealand.